Mood Indigo review: Visually amazing, emotionally shallow

Mood Indigo/L'Ecume des Jours
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Director: Michel Gondry
Cert: 12A
Genre: Comedy
Starring: Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Gad Elmaleh, Omar Sy
Running Time: 1 hr 35 mins

Colin’s best friend Chick (Gad Elmaleh) falls for Alise (Aïssa Maïga), the niece of Colin’s brilliantly resourceful manservant Nicolas (Omar Sy). Naturally, Colin (Romain Duris) demands to “fall in love too”.

Enter Chloe (Audrey Tautou), whom Colin marries after a go-kart race and a whirlwind Parisian romance (with a nod to Agnès Varda). Unhappily, the new bride soon develops a debilitating lily growing from her lung, one that will be fatal if she isn’t surrounded by flowers at all times.

Colin's fortune soon shrinks, both figuratively and literally. But not before we've watched dancing pepperpots, doorbells that crawl down the wall, hyperactive food, a dining table wearing roller skates, a Rubik's cube-styled personal planner, cloud chairlifts, transparent saloon cars, shoes that run on ahead if the wearer is late, rotating handshakes, period futurism, and conveyer-belt typewriters tapping to Duke Ellington's Take the A Train.

S’ wonderful. S’ marvellous. S’ exhausting.


It ought to have been a marriage made in heaven: the extravagantly imaginative French film-maker Michel Gondry directs and co-writes an adaptation of Boris Vian's 1947 surrealist masterpiece Froth of the Daydream. But Gondry tends to produce his best work when there are boundaries, even if those boundaries are as unconventional as a Daft Punk promo or a Charlie Kaufman screenplay (think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Vian, alas, is not the go-to guy for boundaries.

Gondry does splendid things with such mad analogue contraptions as Vian’s piano-cocktail, an instrument that produces drinks that reflect the tune being played. Stop-motion whirls animate every corner of every shot. There’s a commendably barmy subplot featuring a pop philosopher called Jean-Sol Partre (Sartre and Vian were pals) whose pronouncements prove ruinously addictive for Chick: “Existentialism is rheumatism in syrup form” or “The man sandwich disembowels”.

Visually, Mood Indigo is amazing. Mais bien sûr! Emotionally, despite valiant efforts from Duris and Sy, it lacks even the cutesy-pie depth of Gondry's Be Kind Rewind or The Science of Sleep.

Whimsy, however pretty, is no substitute for substance. And dream logic, however loopy, is a poor locum for storytelling.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic